About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Essay response by Jessica Villere, John Brown University
Want to help the mind of a senior? This is just what Counseling can help with. Maybe a senior you know has just experienced the death of a loved one or is searching for healthy ways to cope with a new found illness. Quite possibly, the family is contributing to the stress and he or she needs someone with empathy, compassion, and therapeutic skills to help them live well in this last season of their life. After just studying Existentialism in Theories and Techniques of Counseling, I see how this Counseling theory would help people in understanding their purpose in life and make the most of their life as a senior.
In Irvin Yalom’s Book, The Gift of Therapy, he says that people come to see counselors because “of their lack of success in developing and maintaining gratifying interpersonal relationships” (23). I believe trained Counselors could really bring in-home care to the next level, by helping people deal with their baggage from the past, make the most of their current relationships, and create a safe haven for the individual to process his or her deep inner life.
I realize that there are essentials about home-care that functionally need to be in place to care for the senior. These things are tangible and necessary. I believe, however, that our mental life and interpersonal relationships is one that often an element that gets over looked, because it is not as tangible as the others. Oh, how vital it is though. In Counseling, we often talk about the presenting problem being a clue to the real problem. Let’s say for instance a senior just experienced another fall, but did not let someone know. The senior’s family member notices bruising on his or her loved one and questions the senior about how the bruise came about. The senior says, “I fell again” and the family goes into fix-it mode to make the home as safe as possible. The Counselor then speaks to the senior about his or her last fall and uncovers that the problem underlying the recent falls is actually “embarrassment for not being able to get in and out of the shower” like he or she used to be able to do. The Counselor then empathizes with the senior’s feelings of embarrassment, helping the senior to feel understood and cared for, and is at this point, able to help the senior ask for what she needs when she realizes she is having a hard time getting in and out of the shower before it becomes a traumatic problem. You see, the details and how we think about the details of our lives is important in leading healthy, safe lives.
This theory goes hand-in-hand with the PACE program. With Counseling being a vital part of the senior’s treatment, it will help “older adults to maintain as much health, strength, and independence as they can, for as long as they can” (Rich Malley). Counseling also provides support for the care givers, especially when they are stressed or looking for advice on how to best care for their loved ones. Maybe they are the over-involved care-givers that need to understand the importance of boundaries and not forget about their own personal lives. Or perhaps, they are on the other side of the spectrum and have a hard time admitting their loved one needs help. The Licensed Professional Counselor can then step in and help the care-giver gain supportive skills that can engage the family in the senior’s life in a more positive way.
This scholarship caught my attention, because I have seen the impact in-home care has had in relatives’ lives both as an employee and a recipient. My aunt worked for an in-home care service for a while where she was needed and appreciated, though she had some disabilities of her own. My grandmother currently receives in-home services and I’m so thankful there are quality people to care for some of her needs when family is far away. If what Dave Ramsey claims is correct and “life is relationships and the rest is just details”, then, I wonder how important the profession Counseling is in the lives of seniors who receive In-Home Care Services.
Jessica is a graduate student at John Brown University.